The continued determination and commitment of the University of British Columbia’s (UBC’s) students, faculty, and staff in the face of many challenges, including the extraordinary experience of teaching and learning during a global pandemic, have been nothing short of remarkable, and we are grateful to students and their families for their unabated pursuit of excellent post-secondary education.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected all facets of university life and operations throughout the 2020-21 academic year. Student teaching and learning modalities, student recruiting, research, delivery of support services, and campus operations were all significantly changed, and had been so since March of 2020.
It was especially challenging for students who were new to UBC. Most undergraduate recruiting events relied upon online formats for major events; however, in the summer, several of UBC’s orientation experiences were offered both online and in-person, including Jump Start, Imagine day, and Create Day. In support of virtual recruiting, most faculties and schools further developed intensive communication campaigns to connect with their admitted students to ensure that they were supported through the summer and well prepared for online learning.
The Academic Essentials program was offered for a second time, building on the success of the first offering, with over 6000 students registered. Involving faculty, staff, and students from across both campuses, the Academic Essentials courses were provided free of charge, self-directed and on-line, and were designed to help new first-year students further develop their learning skills and gain an appreciation of what they could expect to encounter in university-level studies.
Graduate programs and central support offices continued to expand and refine their virtual recruitment activities to meet the needs of applicants. This included forms of online conferencing, either as webinars, “ask me anything” or open house chat sessions, and social media Q&A sessions. Outreach to undergraduate students at partner and other institutions and through advertising for specific positions was extended significantly.
Onboarding and orientation events for graduate students remained focused on virtual delivery with extensive communication campaigns along every step of the way, interactive checklists, virtual pre-arrival sessions, and connections to peer ambassadors. The main orientation events were virtual, live and on-demand, with some Graduate Student Society and departmental in-person welcome sessions offered, when possible.
Community building among newly admitted as well as current students remained a focus to ensure that all students felt welcomed and supported at UBC.
As a result of the outstanding efforts led by UBC’s recruiting and admissions units, overall student enrolment on both campuses was not negatively affected by the global pandemic. International students certainly faced extraordinary obstacles with frequently changing restrictions, which had an impact on their ability to travel to their chosen campus. UBC’s commitment to providing world class education throughout a broadened set of teaching modes and on-line
experiences, and nimbleness to address changing circumstances, undoubtedly set the foundation for continued strength in enrolment and students’ success.